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Governing for Prosperity

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Governing for Prosperity

Yale UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

If you believe that democracy isn’t necessarily a plus for a nation’s economy and that just a little dictatorship might be good for business, this book says you’re right.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Why do some nations thrive while others seem trapped in a cycle of poverty, instability and corruption? The 14 contributors to this anthology agree on one answer to this question: the rule of law. While the developed West spends billions of dollars promoting democracy in developing nations, the authors suggest that democracy itself does not bring about prosperity. In terms of economic growth, stability and predictability are more important than democracy, they argue. As evidence, they contrast wealthy authoritarian regimes like Singapore with poor and corrupt democracies like India. Some readers might find the implications of such conclusions alarming. That’s all the more reason to read this book, which getAbstract recommends to anyone with an interest in economic development, public policy and the global political order.


When Bad Economics Are Good Politics

The war between socialist and capitalist economies is over, and despite the grand victory of market economies, vast portions of humankind still live with the daily tragedy of hunger, poverty and disease.

These conditions persist because the structure of governments and their political arrangements produce a wide range of results. Either they create incentives for political leaders to foster the growth of their nation or they establish incentives to steal the wealth, instead. The question of how to govern for prosperity is likely to be the most important policy puzzle of the 21st century.

Economic growth results not from the work of civic-minded citizens, but from the construction of political institutions that provide leaders with an incentive to take care of their citizenry.

Dictators and their equivalents are immune from the effects of recessions and downturns, whereas democratic leaders constantly have to make effective public policy and avoid economic crises. Perhaps this is why Saddam Hussein is still in power and George Bush (senior), arguably a nicer guy, was thrown out of power.

Resilient Dictators

About the Authors

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is on the faculty of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. He is the author or editor of The War Trap, War and Reason and European Community Decision Making. Hilton L. Root is a senior fellow at Santa Monica, California’s Milken Institute.

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